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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my proposed Paris itinerary for next summer. Since my husband and I had been to Paris before, it was a bit easier to choose what we wanted to repeat and which new things we wanted to see.
Determining our itinerary for Switzerland has been more challenging. There is so much that I would like to see. If time and money were unlimited, I would take at least 2-3 weeks to see every corner of the country. But alas, we need to keep our time in Switzerland to a more reasonable 7-10 days long since we are also visiting Paris.
For the past few months, I’ve enjoyed devouring the Rick Steves Switzerland book. I’ve poured over blog posts and YouTube videos on Switzerland. I’ve asked my family for their input. Finally, I think I’ve nailed down a plan.
Without a doubt, the #1 recommended region to see in Switzerland is the Bernese Oberland. This is the section of the Swiss Alps just south of Bern that is mostly German-speaking. Picture scenic peaks, cute mountain towns, cog railways, happy cows and cheese. Originally I thought we’d make a base in Interlaken. Then, I was fixated on Lauterbrunnen, mostly because of these gorgeous photos..
But after much research, and going back and forth between the towns of Wengen and Murren, I decided to make Wengen our home base. Wengen is a car-free village just a short train ride up the mountains from Lauterbrunnen.
Wengen is a ski resort town in the winter. I picked it over Murren (which also has breathtaking views) because it seems to have more vacation apartments with washer/dryer. Since food in Swiss restaurants is very expensive, we plan to self-cater for at least two meals a day.
The train trip from Paris to Wengen will take us 7-8 hours. So, that will eat up our first day.
Plans for Days 2-6
We will have no problem keeping busy for 4-5 full days in the Bernese Oberland area. Our activities will be dependent on the weather each day, but here are some tempting options:
Murren/Schilthorn/Gimmelwald: The quaint town of Murren is on the opposite side of the valley from Wengen. Murren is another car-free village accessible by cable car. We definitely want to take the cable car from Murren up to Schilthorn. This place has a rotating restaurant and is the location where a James Bond movie was filmed (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). We can spend some time at the James Bond museum up top and soak in the views. On the descent from Schilthorn, we can stop at the Birg cable car station for the Thrill Walk. Back in Murren, my son will definitely want to play tennis on this cliffside tennis court. Next on the list is the easy walk from Murren to Gimmelwald, the smallest mountain town with quaint honesty shops. I found this blog post that does all of these things (minus the tennis).
Jungfraujoch–Top of Europe: We can’t visit the area without the trip up to Jungfraujoch. This will likely take us all day. There’s the ice palace inside the mountain, the observation deck to see the glacier, snow tubing, etc.
Männlichen-Kleine Scheidegg Hike: According to my research, this is a must-do, easy hike with the most breathtaking scenery. We will need to take a cable car from Wengen to Mannlichen to begin the hike that goes across a ridge. See this post for photos and details of the hike.
Interlaken: There is lots to do in nearby Interlaken. We could take a funicular up to Harder Kulm for views of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. We could take a boat trip on Lake Thun and visit one of the five castles on the lake. The St. Beatus Caves would be cool to see, as well as the nearby Ballenberg Open-Air Museum. I’d love to make chocolates at the Funky Chocolate Club. How will we narrow our list down?
Trummelbach Falls: A visit to Europe’s largest subterranean waterfalls looks awesome. See this blog post for all the details.
Paragliding: Not me, no way! But one of my kids want to cliff jump/paraglide in Switzerland. Just watching this video makes me nervous.
Homebase #2: Montreaux
After our adventures in the Bernese Oberland, my husband and boys will probably fly back home. They have high school sport commitments next summer and can’t be gone forever. From Wengen, they will take the train to Zurich the night before their flight. I’m hoping the Hyatt Place Zurich Airport the Circle will be open for reservations soon and we can use a free night certificate to book it.
My daughter and I have the time for a few more days in Switzerland before flying home. My plan is to stay in Montreux for 2-3 nights to experience the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Montreux is a smaller town on the shore of Lake Geneva. To get there, we will take the scenic GoldenPass railroad.
Plans for Days 7-9
The Chocolate Train/Gruyeres: My number one reason for visiting Montreux is to go on the Chocolate Train. The train goes to the medieval town of Gruyeres for a cheese factory tour and some free time to explore the Gruyeres castle. Then, the tour visits the Cailler chocolate factory. Cheese and chocolate, my two favorite things in the world!
Chillon Castle: Since we won’t be visiting any castles in France, why not another castle in Switzerland? Chillon Castle is just a short boat ride from Montreux.
Rochers-de-Naye: I’d love to take the train up to Rochers-de-Naye to see this spectacular view of Lake Geneva.
Barryland: Time permitting, it would be fun to see some St. Bernard pups at Barryland.
What We’re Skipping
There are several major attractions we have to skip on this trip to Switzerland. Most notably, we are not going to the famous Matterhorn near Zermatt.
We also don’t have time to visit the scenic Appenzell area with the famous Ebenalp restaurant::
Our itinerary leaves us no time to explore the cities of Bern or Zurich. If my daughter and I end up flying out of Zurich instead of Geneva, I might try to carve out a day to visit the old part of Zurich and tour the Lindt chocolate factory because CHOCOLATE! If we love Switzerland as much as I think we will, we still have new parts of the country we can see on a future trip.
My trip planning is not over by a long stretch. I still need to figure out some lodging and determine which rail pass is best. While we have our flights to Paris, we’re not quite set on our return flights back to the U.S. yet. But nonetheless, researching Switzerland has brought me so much joy. I’m really looking forward to this trip.
What would you do differently with 7-10 days in Switzerland?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.